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The CURA publications library is currently being digitized by the University of Minnesota Digital Conservancy. When the project is complete, the entire CURA publications library will be online and fully searchable. Unfortunately, during this process we are not able to honor individual requests for publications . Additionally, we no longer have physical copies of publications to send out.

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Small Towns in Minnesota Are Growing Again.

Hart, John Fraser.

This article examines small town population growth using population statistics from the 2000 U.S. Census. Small towns in Minnesota got back on the growth track during the 1990s after having been temporarily derailed during the recession years of the 1980s.The population increased by 5% or more in half of the freestanding incorporated places in the state during the 1990s, and only one-fourth of these towns lost more than 5%, in sharp contrast to the 1980s when only one-fourth gained population and more than half lost. Most of the places that lost more than 5% of their population during the 1990s were in peripheral areas of the state. Growth was also much more widespread during the 1990s than it was during the 1980s. During the 1980s, virtually the only places that gained population were within commuting distance of the Twin Cities or Rochester, or were in the lake country north of Brainerd. Between 1990 and 2000, however, most places within a 50-mile radius of the Twin Cities gained more than 5%, as did most places along Interstate 35 from the Twin Cities north to Duluth, 1-(4 west to Moorhead, and U.S. Highway 12 west to Willmar. The author notes that the best statistical predictor of the population of any place in 2000 was its population in the 1990 U.S. Census. In addition, a town's population size appears to be related to the date on which it was incorporated, with towns that were incorporated the earliest having the longest time to grow and also the largest population today. Despite the nostalgia for small towns and Main Street, the author argues that many small towns are redundant to the needs of contemporary economy and society, largely because the economic functions they once served are now obsolete. Some have changed from central agricultural hubs into small manufacturing centers, others have become bedroom communities for larger urban areas, and still others have become service centers for resort and retirement communities. The author concludes that small towns that accept and adapt to change will continue to grow.

CURA Reporter
Publication date: 
Minneapolis: Center for Urban and Regional Affairs, University of Minnesota.
32 (3): 8-11.
Online availability
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CURA call number: 
Reporter 32 (3)

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